Category Archives: Children

Oahu Adventure: Day 2

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Tom and I aren’t adjusting to jet lag very well, both keeping strange hours. And the kids are going to bed late. We do better going around the world for some reason. 

Three of us were up at a decent time this day. Alex slept and slept and slept. He needed it! We were all eating when he finally came rolling out of bed. He was so out of it and didn’t want to eat or even talk to anyone. 

As Americans living in Australia we are sometimes out of touch with American holidays. Tom booked this trip and neither of us realised it was Memorial Day weekend. Fail. It is busy everywhere. 

We went into Honolulu to have a walk and see a few of the sights. We walked around the ‘Iolani Palace but found it to be quite expensive to go in and not very interesting for the kids so we didn’t go inside.

From Wikipedia: “The ʻIolani Palace was the royal residence of the Kalākaua Dynasty, which included King David Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani. It is located in the capitol district of downtown Honolulu in the U.S. state of Hawaiʻi. It is now a National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kamehameha III, IV, V, and Lunalilo had their official royal residences in this location as well. After the monarchy was overthrown in 1893, the building was used as the capitol building for the Provisional Government, Republic, Territory, and State of Hawaiʻi until 1969. The palace was restored and opened to the public as a museum in 1978.”

We also wandered around the grounds of the Kawaiaha’o Church, also known as The Stone Church. It is referred to as the Westminster Abbey of Hawai’i as it was the site of royal coronations, funerals and christenings. The churches an interesting story. It was built between 1936 and 1942. Some 14,000 thousand-pound slabs of coral reef were hand-chiseled down 3-6 meters and brought up to build the church.

These landmarks are in the Capitol district of Honolulu which also has the State Capitol as well as senate and house buildings. Banyan trees, prevalent on the islands, dot this district as well. I would also like to note the abundance of homeless people in the area. The state library and archives building was lined with homeless people lying all around it.

By now our tummies were growling so we made a quick stop at Subway and then returned to Waikiki. Because of the Memorial Day holiday, Waikiki was heaving with people and cars. The kids asked to go to the aquarium but there wasn’t a parking space anywhere. We returned to our hotel room for a break after all of that walking with hopes of visiting the aquarium another day. The kids had been asking about the hotel pool so we took them up for an hour swim and soak in the hot tub. It was dead quiet up there and we had it to ourselves for most of the time. Back to the room again for a rest since we still had several things to accomplish.

Kuhlo Beach, just in front of our hotel, was our next stop. Tom and I opted out of another swim but the kids had about 40 minutes of running around and wave jumping before we got changed for dinner. Tom and I had both read reviews about Eggs n Things restaurant which is just in front of our hotel so we went for it. Bad idea. Tom ordered Eggs Benedict, I had a Portuguese sausage omelet with a pancake, Sofia had banana pancakes with whipped cream bigger than her head and Alex ate waffles. The kids seemed to enjoy their food alright. Tom and I were sorely disappointed. I have nothing nice to say about the omelet. The pancake was ok only because I got the chance to try Guava syrup and coconut syrup along side the usual maple. Back upstairs. We had planned to go to a hula show on the beach at sundown but the kids were worn out. But, we had a crazy idea for later: Target. I won’t even discuss what we ended up spending. I miss having a proper Target so much. It was 11:30 by the time the kids got to bed.

Tomorrow morning we check out and head north to the Windward side and visits to the north shore. Goodnight.

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Oahu Adventure: Day 1 Again

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Because we crossed the International Date Line on the way over we got to have another 22 May (Left Sydney at 9pm on the 22nd and arrived in Hawaii at 11am on the 22nd). 

Tom travelled here last year so he was familiar with the airport, car rental, etc. Instead of waiting ages for the Avis shuttle to pick us up we spent five minutes walking down to the end of the terminal and crossing the street to get to the rental area. We got a behemoth of a vehicle, a Ford Explorer. Off to find our hotel for the first two nights, the Aston Waikiki Beach Tower. Because our room wasn’t going to be ready for a couple of hours we upgraded to a room on the 29th floor instead of our 7th floor room. Worth it! 

Everyone felt tired, out of sorts and hungry. We got ourselves settled in and then went to find some late lunch at Cheeseburger in Paradise. None of us had a cheeseburger. Tom and I shared fish tacos and coconut prawns. The kids had macaroni and cheese. I also had a piña colada and we shared a mojito. Yum.

Back at the room Alex fell asleep on the sofa so we went and had a nap. Sofia said she wasn’t tired and watched iPad shows while Tom snoozed off and on. After our siesta we needed to go out for food again. Our hotel has a McDonalds right outside the front so we took,the easy option with the kids since they were still quite out of sorts (or completely foul, something like that). Next stop was the local ABC shop for yogurt, juice, smoothies and apples for breakfast. 

Thinking back to last night it is all a haze. No idea where all the time went. Sofia went to bed ok at 10pm but Alex didn’t fall asleep until closer to midnight. (Naps aren’t always a good thing). 

It is Memorial Day weekend in a very touristy area and it shows! Excited to be heading up the Windward (East) coast on Sunday for a week in a beach house. Photos and more later!

Day 11: Longyearbyen

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We were in bed far too late last night. It was after ten that the kids finally got to sleep and closer to 11:30 for me. It made getting up in time for breakfast and our tour a bit of a challenge. I had a more difficult time sleeping for some reason. There were no blackout curtains and it was brighter than it had been thus far. There didn’t seem to be much differentiation between day and night. At least further south the sun dipped behind the mountains so the light wasn’t as direct.

We had breakfast and then waited for our Maxi Taxi to pick us up at 10am. It was a 2 hour tour around the city pointing out all of the buildings, mines, some facts and some humour.

There was so much to learn about Svalbard and so much to see in 2 hours.

Here are a few interesting facts:
* The town was founded by an American, John Longyear.

* The buildings are built on stilts. Due to the permafrost everything has to be built up on stilts. If you were to build on the permafrost the heat from the building would melt the ground and cause it to move.

* Snowmobiles (snow scooters) are widely used here when there is snow. There are more snowmobiles than people, something like 4000 of them for a population of around 2300. There is no road network between settlements and it is by far the easiest way to get around.

* The sun sets on 25 October and rises again on 8 March for total darkness. On the flip side, there is midnight sun from late April to late August.

* You can’t have a cat as a pet due to the fragile birdlife in Svalbard. You also can’t keep your polar dogs at home, you have to keep them at the dog center on the edge of town.

* Polar bears. Svalbard and Franz Joseph Land share a Polar Bear population of 3000. If you leave the outskirts of town you must carry a rifle and know how to use it. But if you are in the town with your guns you must check them at the door of shops.

* Arctic Terns nest on the ground and will attack you. You must carry a long orange pole above your head if you are going past the breeding grounds and even then they will try to attack the sticks and your head and poo on you! We know this from experience.

* There is a hospital in Svalbard but they don’t have specialized services, those have to be done in Tromsø, a flight away from Svalbard. They do have fiber optic wire and specialists available in case of emergency. Also, pregnant women fly to Tromsø a few weeks before they are due, but can deliver in Longyearbyen in case of early birth.

We drove all around the town then up into the mountains near the operating mine. There were several times we got out to take in the views. We also stopped at the church but didn’t stay inside long because there was a Sunday service happening.

Once we were done with the tour we asked the driver to recommend a good place for lunch and then to drop us there rather than at the hotel. He recommended Kroa. We were the first people in for lunch. The kids shared a burger and fries, Tom had the same and I ordered a chicken sandwich. After lunch we had a wander through the town into some shops and around. The kids and Tom got new shirts. We also picked up a couple of little souvenirs.

We wandered our way back to the hotel discussing trying to join an afternoon activity. The kids just weren’t going to make it, especially Alex who seems very tired today. We went back to our room and rested for a while, organized bags and when the kids started fighting too much we decided to go back out. Our first stop was the Svalbard Museum just out the door from our hotel. This was an unexpected delight. It was very well done, so colorful and with displays the kids enjoyed. There were displays about animals, mining, weather, glaciers, Svalbard history, old artifacts, and so on. In the true Svalbard tradition we either had to remove our shoes or wear protectors over the top. No wonder the wood floors are still beautiful. This was a option in the hotel as well but it seemed that a majority of people ignored it.

Early the same morning Tom had gone for a walk on the outskirts of the city only to be attacked by some birds but didn’t really know why. The tour guide explained to us that Arctic Terns nested down there and that we needed to carry the poles above our heads and that the birds would only attack the sticks. We returned to that same area to have a walk and carried the poles but the birds persisted. Several of them were flying at us. One flew right into Tom’s head and pooed on him. Same thing happened to Sofia! At that point we aborted our walk and headed back up toward the hotel.

The kids had peanut butter sandwiches and carrots for dinner and then off to bed. Alex was so tired he fell asleep at 7:30, Sofia didn’t get to sleep until much later. She finally got settled into bed and then had a bloody nose which ate up more time. Our flight leaves at 4:40am. The airport shuttle bus comes to the hotel at 3:00am and breakfast is served at 2:30am. Tom and I plan to get up at 1:30 and then get the kids up at 2.

Let’s see how this goes. Two flights. Longyearbyen to Oslo then on to Hamburg, Germany.

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Day 10: Tromsø to Longyearbyen, Svalbard

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Today was more of a relaxation/regrouping day. We have been on the go nearly non-stop for days now. We got up in the morning and lazed about a bit before going down to breakfast. This was followed by a walk around town. Our flight to Svalbard is at 6:40pm so we asked for a 4pm checkout. We returned to the room and sorted our bags for our flights. Because it is a few degrees cooler up on Svalbard so we needed to make sure we had some warmer things in our carry-on luggage. We had a late lunch at Pastafabrikken–pizza and lasagne.

After lunch we checked out and stored our bags before walking over to get the car in the underground parking area. We picked up our luggage and drove over the bridge to see the Arctic Cathedral, the cable car (passed on this one today due to the outflow of money) and then just a quick tour around town before heading to the airport.

At Tromsø Airport we returned the car and checked in our bags. The kids played in the children’s area and then snacked on carrots and Icelandic Skyr.

We flew from Tromsø to Longyearbyen on SAS. It took 1.5 hours. Sofia and I sat together and Alex and Tom sat together in the row behind us.

We landed in Longyearbyen and collected our bags and then boarded the shuttle bus to the Radisson SAS for 60kr per adult. We found out an interesting tidbit about our hotel. It was built for the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. When the Olympics were over they dismantled the hotel, shipped it here and rebuilt it.

After checking into the hotel we had a little walk around town. A man was walking two polar dogs (Husky or Malamute?) and stopped for a chat. He was a miner who had come to Svalbard only one month ago. Sofia loved giving the dogs attention. Because it was getting very late we decided to call it a night and get the kids to bed since we had a10am Maxi Taxi tour scheduled. Tom slept on the pull-out bed, I slept on the top bunk and the kids slept together on the larger bottom bunk. There were no blackout shades/curtains and it was brighter here than it had been anywhere so far in Norway.

We are looking forward to having a look around tomorrow and already wishing we had more time here!

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Day 9: Tennevoll to Tromsø

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Today we travel from our little cabin near Tennevoll to Tromsø, the second largest city north of the Arctic Circle. Because we are not far from our destination we decided to take a detour and drive out to the island of Senja, the second largest island in Norway. It is meant to be diverse and beautiful. Why not? It did not disappoint! The fjords, mountains and rivers were as magnificent as any we have seen so far.

World’s Largest Troll (we didn’t pay to go inside $$$$):

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Bergsbotn:

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Lunch in Hamn i Senja:

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A lake with ice:

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Tungeneset:

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There were deserted beaches, craggy rocks, waterfalls and on and on. I don’t even know where the day went. So much to take in. We had to catch a ferry from Botnhamm to Brensholmen or drive all the way around. We missed the 3:15 ferry but made the 5:00 one.

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This would take us to the island of Kvaløya. Part of Tromsø sits on this island. The rest of it on Tromsøya (øya is the ending for island). The ferry was a pleasant ride. We didn’t see any sea life aside from the usual birds. We had a quick bite to eat before heading over to our hotel. We debated whether or not to take the cable car but the kids were done for the day so off to our hotel. Trims has an interesting underground system of roads with roundabouts and even car parks. Love it. We checked into the Radisson Blu in the city centre. Tom went to park the car and I took the kids up to get ready for bed.

Tom went out late last night to watch the Hurtigruten ferry come in (this is part of the coastal ferry system we took last year) and to catch the sun at midnight.

Tomorrow we will spend the day exploring Tromsø and then take an evening flight from here to Longyearbyen up on Svalbard .

Day 8: Nyvågar to Tennevoll

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Today was another of those days that it didn’t seem like we did much. There was a bit of driving (so we don’t have to do so much tomorrow). Let me back up. We packed up our bags this morning and said goodbye to our cottage at Nyvågar Rorbuhotell and its majestic surroundings. We didn’t drive away until 11am. Our journey today will take us back on to the mainland after being on the Lofoten Islands. The area is remote with very little in the way of towns. What made up for that was the waterfalls, mountains, snow-covered mountainsides, fjords, lakes and so on. We made one stop along a beach with snow-covered mountains in the distance. We skipped rocks and picked up sea urchins, scallop shells and all sorts of other treasures. The kids loved it! Our next stop was to use the toilet and have a snack. The moment we stepped in the shop Sofia had a strange look on her face and it was all I could do to get her outside to be sick. Car sickness. We sat in the grass on the edge of a river taking in the fresh air. She was fine to get back in the car and had no trouble the rest of the way.

Our accommodation tonight is one of the more rustic places we will stay. There isn’t much choice around this area so Tom booked us a cabin at a camper park. It is actually really cute and has beautiful mountains all around. But it is also one of those places that doesn’t even supply you with a bar of soap and you have to hire sheets and towels.

I took the kids to play at the playground for a while and then we all decided to find some dinner. After driving through some villages we realised we better stick to dinner at our place…nothing else around us. Tom and I ordered salmon, potatoes and salad. Alex and Sofia shared a hamburger. Sofia ordered meatballs. When it arrived she wanted to know where was the spaghetti?! She did try a few bites but skipped the stewed (mushy) peas, cranberries and potato. I shared some salmon with the kids since I got so much of it. Ice cream for dessert.

The kids showered while Tom made up the bunk beds for everyone. They got ready for bed and went to sleep around 10. It is now 10:20 and I am looking out the window at the snow-covered mountains across the highway. The sun is still shining brightly and we don’t have blackout curtains tonight.